James Clear

James Clear quotes on hard work

Author of the #1 NYT bestseller Atomic Habits. I write about building better habits.

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The highest level of mastery is simplicity. Most information is irrelevant and most effort is wasted, but only the expert knows what to ignore.


Without hard work, a great strategy remains a dream. Without a great strategy, hard work becomes a nightmare.


Before you begin, think as if you are a lazy person. Assume the competition will work harder. Your only chance is a better strategy. After you begin, work as if you are a dumb person. Assume the competition is smarter and more talented. Your only chance is to outwork them.


A paradox of life is that the greatest returns come in the long-term, but the opportunity cost of moving slowly is huge. Long-term thinking is not slow acting. Act fast on things that compound. Never let a day pass without doing something that will benefit you in a decade.


Reading is like fresh food for the mind. The consumption fills you with wisdom. Writing is like exercise for the mind. The effort leads to stronger ideas. Meditation is like fasting for the mind. The practice clears your mental digestive tract.


The most overlooked and underappreciated growth strategy is patience. (More specifically, consistently producing great work over a long time horizon.)


The Overreaction Paradox: When the result of taking effective action is that nothing happens, which makes your effort seem unnecessary and like an overreaction even if it was the right thing to do.


Comparing yourself to others... ...is positive when it motivates you to get back to work, upgrade your skills, and remain dedicated to a meaningful pursuit. ...is negative when it causes rumination, negative self-talk, and lower self-esteem. It’s a thin line between the two.


The fastest way to raise your level of performance: Cut your number of commitments in half.


Some people need more focus. Others need to broaden their perspective. Some people need to try harder. Others need to stress less. Some people need to care more. Others need to let it go. The secret is you are both people. The key is to know which one you are in this moment.


Success is never due to one thing, but failure can be. Sleeping well won’t make you successful, but not sleeping enough will hold you back. Hard work is rarely enough without good strategy, but even the best strategy is useless without hard work. Necessary, but not sufficient.


If you haven’t started, then taking action is more important than finding the best strategy. If you’re already taking action, then ensuring you’re working on the right thing is more important than working harder. Your effort sets your floor. Your strategy sets your ceiling.


Do not wait. If there is something you wish to do, go do it. Death comes for busy people too. It will not pause and return at a more convenient time.


Study as if you know nothing. Work as if you can solve anything.


The best way to get the attention and respect of exceptional people is to do exceptional work. Like attracts like.


Hard work is not always something you can see. It is not always physical effort. In fact, the most powerful form of hard work is thinking clearly. Designing a winning strategy may not look very active, but make no mistake: it is very hard work. Strategy often beats sweat.


Results = (Hard Work*Time)^Strategy Working hard is important, but working on the right thing is more important. A great strategy can deliver exponential results. Of course, the best strategy is worth nothing if you never get to work. Zero to the millionth power is still zero.


What you do on your ordinary days determines what you can achieve on your extraordinary days.


Hard work is the engine. Strategy is the GPS. It’s difficult to get anywhere without hard work. If the engine stops running, progress stalls. But you’ll waste a lot of gas without a good strategy. It’s easier to make progress when you’re following the optimal path.


In many cases, the bottleneck to achieving results is simply making the time to do the work.


The most useful form of patience is persistence. Patience implies waiting for things to improve on their own. Persistence implies keeping your head down and continuing to work when things take longer than you expect.


Wealth is a game that compounds. Health is a game that plateaus (and then declines). As we age, we should spend more time staying fit and less time making money. Increasingly, working to ward off the effects of aging and allowing the effects of compounding take over.


Each day is a new battle to say yes to what matters and say no to what doesn’t. Focus is a practice.


Effort is bounded. You are limited by internal resources like time, energy, and attention. Strategy is unbounded. There is essentially no limit on how far an exceptional strategy can scale. Invest your bounded effort into unbounded strategies.


The best work resists compression. The best explanations are short, but potent. The best software delivers the same outcome in fewer clicks. The best manufacturing processes create products in less time and with less waste. The shape of genius is simplicity.


You always hold the rights to your effort, but never to your results. Results are entitled to no one. At best, they are on loan and must be renewed each day. All you own is the right to try.


Work hard. If results depend on effort, then you will carry yourself far. If results depend on effort and luck, then you will be focused on the area you can influence. If results depend on luck alone, then the outcome is random, but you will have won the battle with yourself.


Giving your best effort does not mean simply working harder at what you were already doing. It can mean that, but it often means searching harder for a better way to do things. Giving your best effort involves execution and strategy.


A good choice may go unrewarded for a long time. The best choices tend to provide exponential returns and a hallmark of any compounding process is that the greatest rewards are delayed. Things don't really take off until years later. Keep working. Be patient.


Time spent working hard is often better spent identifying where the bottleneck is located. Working hard on the wrong thing leads to frustration, not progress.


A practical definition of opportunity cost: If you spend too much time working on good things, then you don’t have much time left to work on great things. Understanding opportunity cost means eliminating good uses of time. And that's what makes it hard.


There are two ways to achieve extraordinary outcomes: 1) Be lucky. 2) Be obsessed. Most people need some combination of both. However, only one of those factors is within your control. Work hard, stay focused, and let the chips fall where they may.


A thought on strategy for work and life: Look for opportunities where you don’t have to be an outlier to succeed. (Then work as hard as you can to be the outlier.)


The art of living well is a dance between extremes. Planning for the future vs. being present in the moment. Seeing the big picture vs. focusing on the details. Working hard vs. relaxing fully. On then off. Off then on. The challenge is knowing which move life calls for now.


Don’t put in average effort and claim that you want exceptional results.


It’s remarkable what you can build if you just don’t stop. - It’s remarkable the business you can build if you don’t stop working. - It’s remarkable the body you can build if you don’t stop training. - It’s remarkable the knowledge you can build if you don’t stop learning.


Work on things that you care about getting right. It is nearly impossible to become exceptional in any field if you do not genuinely care about "getting it right."


Merely believing you deserve something doesn’t make it a reality. But believing you *don’t* deserve something will prevent you from trying. Most people are capable of more than they believe. Confidence won’t automatically get you results, but self-doubt sets your ceiling.


A beginner’s mind + an expert’s grind. Potent combination.


Until you try your best, you’ll never know if it was actually genes/misfortune/bad luck holding you back.


It costs nothing to ask a successful person how they succeeded, but it may deliver more value than 1,000 hours of hard work. Others are under no obligation to tell you their secrets, but it is surprising how much you can learn from sincere, direct, and thoughtful questions.


The Paradox of Sacrifice: Feelings of sacrifice decrease as commitment increases. Sacrifice feels greatest when deciding between options of similar importance. You don’t know what you want to do. The more you commit to one thing, the less you care about missing out on others.


There are not "7 things successful people do before breakfast." Here's the real morning routine of successful people: they get up and they show up. At some point, they do work that matters. The details are up to you.


We hold onto our flaws because they are insurance for our failures. Every fear serves a purpose. When we cling to unhelpful beliefs and old fears, we can blame failure on them. Growth requires the courage to give our best effort and not blame our flaws as the cause of failure.


The willingness to do the unsexy work is a competitive advantage.


Where you apply your effort matters more than how much effort you apply. You might be able to work 10% harder, but working on the right thing can deliver 100x results. Unfortunately, most days we are too busy working on the next thing to ask if we are working on the best thing.


The biggest risk is working on the wrong thing. The second biggest is being unreliable when working on the right thing.


Mastery is an endless quest to reduce effort without reducing effectiveness.


The Cycle of Improvement 1. Awareness - identify what you need to improve. 2. Deliberate practice - focus your conscious effort on the specific area you want to improve. 3. Habit - with practice, the effortful becomes automatic. 4. Repeat - begin the cycle anew.


If you added up all the time wasted searching for shortcuts and trying to cheat the process, the hard work could have already been done by now.

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